Gauteng motorists are not Martians living in a bubble who never read newspapers or listen to radio reports. Or maybe they are, but were simply brainwashed into not seeing that e-tolling was coming.
But even Martians would have seen the roads being upgraded and toll gantries built.
This was the main thrust of roads agency Sanral’s defence against opposition alliance Outa’s argument that the public consultation process around e-tolling was “so woeful, it was illegal”.
Sanral’s senior counsel, David Unterhalter, took centre stage yesterday in the e-tolling Pretoria High Court review.
PUBLIC AWARE, DID NOTHING
He said the public and the alliance were aware of the road upgrade and tolling for many years and did nothing about it.
He said Sanral did everything they were supposed to in terms of the law in publishing notices of the intention to toll in adverts in newspapers.
He said there were also 132 media reports since 2007 discussing tolling.
“The public knew what was at stake. They knew the costs involved and they stood back for years and did nothing,” Unterhalter said.
“Was everyone simply brainwashed by this sterile notice?”
He said it was human nature to sit back until the point in time when payment is asked for. Then people want to do something.
Unterhalter said the alliance was trying to take money out of the mouths of the poor.
He said people who depend on the general fiscus are the very poor, and the alliance wanted a slice of that revenue, while the people who used the highways were well off because they could afford cars.
Sanral said at the outset of its argument that the alliance had essentially brought forward a new case – that its original case was based on the premise that toll roads were unjust, but Unterhalter said this had been dismissed by the Constitutional Court. He said the new case fastened on to procedural fairness.
Unterhalter said this was unfair. “It is a heroic attempt to bridge a four-year process,” he said.
He dismissed the alliance’s argument that Sanral had deliberately misled the public before the 2010 world cup.
“The accusation that Sanral had created a devilish plot to create a sterile notice, to dupe the whole of the public had no factual foundation,” Unterhalter said.
The delays and court cases brought against Sanral were also causing the agency’s financial standing to be “scrutinised” by international funders.
“Tolling cannot be undone… there is no way back from that,” said Unterhalter.
Today, Jeremy Gauntlett SC was expected to set down his argument and the alliance was expected to reply. -The Star